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Education System in South Africa

Schools in South Africa are divided into two categories, namely public schools and private schools. There is also a provision for special school education. The levels of school education are pre-primary, primary and secondary. Pre-primary caters for children from the age of three years to school-going age and is not compulsory.

Primary education consists of two phases – junior primary which includes grades 1, 2 and 3, and senior primary which includes grades 4, 5 and 6. Secondary education also consists of two phases – junior (grades 7, 8, 9) and senior (grades 10, 11, 12). Education is compulsory for learners between the ages of seven and 15 years of age, or learners reaching the ninth grade, whichever occurs first. A child enters grade 1 at the beginning of the year in which he turns 7 years of age. 

Basic learning activities during junior primary involve learning to read, write and calculate, and the development of language proficiency.

During the senior primary phase, learning activities centre on reading and oral proficiency in the mother tongue and second language, mathematics, history, geography, general science and a skill such as needlework, woodwork or art. In the junior secondary has most subjects are compulsory, while pupils have to choose two subjects in addition to those already offered.

At the end of the senior secondary phase (grade 12), pupils write a public examination in a minimum of six subjects. The examination in each subject is conducted at three levels: higher, standard and lower grade. It is this public examination which determines whether a pupil is eligible to enter a higher education institution.

Higher education includes technical college education, teacher-training, technikons and university training.

There are 129 technical colleges in South Africa. The courses at these colleges are very practice-orientated and include theory and design. The levels of training, examination and certification extend from N1 to N6.

South Africa has 21 fully-fledged universities and 15 technikons. Technikons provide degree studies.

Teacher-training is carried out at colleges of education which offer three or four-year diploma courses for initial qualifications for primary or secondary school teachers.

Foreigners are allowed to study at South African higher education institutions, but require a study visa to do so. A study visa is granted on the fulfillment of various conditions.

Academic Year in South Africa is From January to December.


Major South African Higher Education Institutions


  1. University of Cape Town (UCT)
  2. UCT Department of Archaeology Cape Town
  3. University of Durban Westville (UDW)
  4. University of Free State (UOVS)
  5. Medical University of Southern Africa

  6. University of Port Elizabeth (UPE)
  7. University of Potchefstroom (PUK)
  8. University of Pretoria (UP)
  9. Rhodes University; Grahamstown
  10. University of South Africa (UNISA); Pretoria
  11. University of Stellenbosch (US)
  12. University of Transkei
  13. University of Fort Hare

  14. University of Witwatersrand (Wits); Johannesburg
  15. University of Zululand

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